On Stage: Adrian Belew lights up Sellersville

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Adrian Belew

The concert schedule of the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) frequently features an evening of blues music. On August 23, the venue will feature an evening of Belew’s music – the music of internationally acclaimed guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Adrian Belew.

Belew first appeared on the guitar-world radar when he toured with Frank Zappa who later said, “Adrian reinvented electric guitar”. Belew’s signature tones, unique use of effects and whammy bar remains completely different, and his techniques continue to be a huge influence on today’s guitarists.

He was guitarist, songwriter and frontman for progressive rock powerhouse King Crimson for more than 30 years. “Discipline,” Belew’s first record with King Crimson, is listed among the most important rock records ever made.

Belew has had a career that commands both awe and respect from fellow musicians and loyal fans — from his first solo record “The Lone Rhino” to the Atlantic Records hit album “Mr. Music Head” or any of his other 20 plus solo records that push sonic boundaries. He also has been involved in countless world tours and albums with David Bowie, Talking Heads, Laurie Anderson, and Paul Simon.

Belew, who is also a guitarist with the Bears, is a strong fan of the power trio format that was popularized by Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience in the late 1960s. On this tour, he has expanded his band to a quartet.

For more than a decade the Adrian Belew Power Trio stunned audiences around the world. Now Adrian is ready to re-invent his live show with a new quartet which includes Jordan Perlson on drums, Saul Zonana on keyboards, guitar, and vocals, and bassist extraordinaire Julie Slick. The tour dates will be in support of Belew’s new album, “Pop-Sided.”

“The trio is something I always like to do,” said Belew. “You can stretch out more when it’s just a trio and that’s what I want to be able to do. It’s a nice form to work in because you have to work really hard. Our music is complicated and to hold it together is difficult. The drummer has to deal with a variety of electronics, and I loop a lot with my guitar.

“Now, I’ve taken the trio and added Saul Zonana. He’s been our opening act and toured with us for years. I said – you’re in the van, why not be in the band. He still does the opening set. Like me, he’s a multi-instrumentalist.

“With a quartet and another guitar, it greatly increases the variety of material we can play. It’s a better show because we can add to the repertoire and play songs that we couldn’t do as a trio.

“We never played ‘Big Blue Sea’ before. We have more of a variety of King Crimson songs that we can play. I had just finished making ‘Poop-Sided’ and, like my previous 24 albums, I didn’t put stuff on it that we couldn’t play live. It’s different now.”

Fans can expect to hear a more comprehensive presentation of Belew’s music delivered live on stage.

According to Belwew, “The show is a more complete picture of most things I’ve done. More songs, new songs from the award-winning FLUX app, King Crimson material I haven’t played for years, and a dose of classic Power Trio. It’s my intention to make this the best Adrian Belew show ever!”

FLUX:FX is an award-winning professional multi-effect processor app for the iPad that lets you ‘play’ your effects. Innovative, intuitive and exciting, FLUX:FX lets you manipulate your audio signal into something entirely new and redefines the possibilities of studio sound design and live performance.

FLUX by belew is an ever-changing mix of Adrian Belew’s new music, songs, sounds and visual art that comes at you in quick, surprising pieces. FLUX by belew is the newest way to experience music that never plays the same way twice.

“The ideal for FLUX was in my head since 1978 when I was sitting outside between two cafés in Marseille, France,” said Belew. “Between the cafes, I heard background sounds like seagulls and different music coming from the two cafes. I realized I’d like my music to be constantly changing. I wanted it never to sound the same two times.

“About six years ago, I talked about this to some guys from Amsterdam and I’ve been working on it for six years now. The content is pretty broad. I cut the songs into bits and then make it so the computer algorithms will choose different parts. There is something about the immediacy and the surprise element. It’s like real life.

“There is a whole generation of people who get things in short, quick bursts. I thought there should be music that goes along with this format. It’s never finished and will always be changing. My lifelong dream is to come up with something that has never been done before – and I did it.”

Video link for Adrian Belew – https://youtu.be/Q00TNTTjVkg.

The show at Sellersville, which has Saul Zonana as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are Mary Fahl on August 24, and Larry, Steve & Rudy: The Gatlin Brothers on August 25.

When Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen perform as Hot Tuna, the music veterans who were part of the original San Francisco music scene in the late 1960s bring a wealth of rock-and-roll history along with them.

Hot Tuna

Each year, Hot Tuna makes its annual Thanksgiving holiday visit to the area for a show at the Keswick Theatre (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com).

This year, they’ve made an addition to their schedule and will perform at show at the theater in Glenside on August 23. Dave Mason, solo artist and former member of Traffic, will open the show.

“The dates move around a bit – why not try to do something different?” said Casady, during a recent phone interview from Long Island, New York.

Casady and Kaukonen were founding members of the original Jefferson Airplane and then together founded Hot Tuna. Kaukonen, a guitarist, has also released a number of solo projects and Casady, a bass player, had done a few. Both veteran musicians have done hundreds of recording sessions with other artists. As Hot Tuna, they play a mesmerizing blend of rock, folk and blues.

“We’ve put together a really nice tour with some great musicians,” said Casady. “This is our summer tour — 15, 16, 17 shows in a row.

For 50 years Hot Tuna has brought a wealth of emotions to their music through deep perceptions and tremendous talent.  Kaukonen and Casady are always injecting fresh energy into their sound with constant improvisation taking their musical horizons further.  For five decades, Hot Tuna has played, toured, and recorded some of the most memorable original electric rock and soulful acoustic music.

“It happens to be our story,” said Casady. “50 years later, Jorma and I are working musicians. That’s what we do. This is our life. I think of myself more as a folk musician than a rock musician. That being said, we’re doing electric this time.

“What do Jorma or I want to retire for? We get to pursue the profession we like. We did so much work last year between our schedule and our individual schedules.  It all makes up for it in front of an audience. That’s why we’re coming around there now. We’re minstrels of sorts.

“We’ve had a unique take on it — acoustic guitar and bass. We’ve had all kinds of configurations — folk music, rock, blues. Words, music, poetry — that’s what we’ve always been into. The music stays alive. The communication in the music keeps it alive every night.”

When “Electric,” Hot Tuna includes three-time Grammy winner, drummer and percussionist Justin Guip. He is all about the groove, the heartbeat at the essence of all great music.  Guip lets the song — delicate or driving as the music needs — dictate his drumming style providing the perfect dynamic for Hot Tuna to electrify their trademark sound.

Casady and Kaukonen first got together when both were high school students in the Washington, D.C. area. Their first band together was a D.C.-area garage band called The Triumphs.

“We’ve been together since 1958,” said Casady. “We started Hot Tuna in 1968 and did both bands (Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane) together until 1973. That’s when Marty (Balin) put Jefferson Starship together.

“We figured that Jefferson Airplane had its run. The core years were over. Most bands don’t stay together more than four years so seven years was a lot. We did the first Hot Tuna album in 1970. Some of the material has held up well to the test of time.”

There are times when they go out as an electric duo, times as an acoustic duo and times as a trio.

“We’re doing electric this time,” said Casady. “We have 60 years of playing together and are still love doing shows.

“And, I love teaching. Teaching at Fur Peace Ranch is great. Teaching keeps you in shape and it keeps you investigating – which is important. I work in a workshop format. It’s a collaborative environment.”

When Casady was asked if 50 years ago he thought he would still be making music 50 years later, he replied, “I never thought of not doing it. I always thought of myself as wanting to be a good musician. You keep working at it. Jorma is a poet and a songwriter first and a musician second. That’s the key to our longevity.”

With a six-decade history of making songs, deciding which ones to perform in a show can be tough.

“The set list – Jorma is the master of that,” said Casady. “We have over 100 songs we can play right now. We rotate songs in and out of the set list. We have some that we haven’t played in a while that we’re folding into the set. Fans will hear a nice variety and be pleased.”

Video link for Hot Tuna — https://youtu.be/3ubSwu37-nI.

The show at the Keswick will start at 7:30 p.m. on August 23. Ticket prices range from $49-$75.

This weekend, the Keswick will also present The Wallflowers on August 25.

Ramonda Hammer

Another area show this weekend will feature a much newer band – Ramonda Hammer.

On August 23, the Barbary (951 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-634-7400, www.facebook.com/thebarbary) will host Ramonda Hammer, a relatively new Los Angeles grunge band that has been hitting its stride over the last two years.

The foursome of Devin Davis, Andy Hengl, Justin Geter, and Mark Edwards released a five-song EP called “Destroyers” on New Professor Records. Moving ahead, the band just released its debut album, “I Never Wanted Company” on the same label.

“It’s the first full-length for the band,” said Davis, during a phone interview last week from her home in Los Angeles. “We had been building songs over the last couple years. Only one – ‘Everlasting Love’ – is six years old.”

On “I Never Wanted Company,” Davis takes a hard look at her internal struggle between despairing loneliness and embracing independence. The Los Angeles quartet’s blistering guitars and Davis’s paint-peeling vocals form a strong support for lyrics that grapple with two years of emotional upheaval for Davis.

Since the band released its 2017 EP “Destroyers,” Davis struggled to come to terms with her codependency, fought against her own impulse to get overwhelmed by her own over-analysis, and got into her first queer relationship. The result is an album that’s bruising, cathartic, searching, and ultimately therapeutic.

“It’s something I always explored,” said Davis. “I never really wanted to be with someone from the opposite sex, but I wasn’t really into women. Now, I have a relationship with a non-binary person – very masculine but not biologically male.

“I have a different story than most. My sister is gay and married to a woman and I have two gay aunts. I always grew up in that environment, so I knew I’d never be judged by my family.

“I’ve been in this relationship for two years and the songs come from it. But it wasn’t something that was in my head when I was writing the songs. My songs are just about relationships – trials, tribulations, things you learn about each other when you’re in love.

“There are a couple songs just about myself – self-sabotaging thoughts, fake thoughts. A lot of them are anthems for myself – pep talks. I had been pretty co-dependent in past relationships. I realized that I could be independent and not be lonely.”

Ramonda Hammer took its name from a lady featured on the television show “Cheaters.”

Davis, who the foursome’s primary songwriter, is also the founder of the band.

“I grew up in Orange County – the San Clemente area,” said Davis. “I moved to New York when I was 19 and then came back out west to Oakland. After that, I moved back to Los Angeles – to the Frogtown area.

“I had just moved to L.A. in the summer of 2014. I went to this giant 6,000-feet warehouse that is a huge art space with artists, band rooms, a barbershop, and all kinds of things.

“It’s like a nomad art compound. People also live there. I moved in the same day as our bass player Andy (Hengl). He was working in film and, at first, I didn’t know he was into music too.

“We got together musically. We jammed a bit and I told him that he was my bass player. A year later, Justin joined the band. We were developing our grungy sound and then the drummer quit.

“We had a show lined up at SXSW and needed a drummer. Our label recommended Mark Edwards for the SXSW show. He came – and never left.

“The first Ramonda Hammer gig was in July 2014. Then, in spring 2016 we made a self-produced, self-released album. It was an eight-song disc called ‘Whatever That Meant.’”

Ramonda Hammer worked hard at building a fanbase – and a solid base of songs.

“To make ‘Destroyers,’ we did a Kickstarter campaign,” said Davis. “Our goal was $1,000 and we far exceeded that.

“We recorded the first record at Sunset Sounds. It was awesome to get to make a record at such a legendary studio. And, we got to work with an amazing engineer named Morgan Stratton.

“We were playing a show at the Echo here in L.A. and that led to us getting signed by New Professor. The first thing we did with them was our ‘Zombie Sweater’ single last fall. Now, we just released our new album with them.”

Video link for Ramonda Hammer — https://youtu.be/2pH9geR2ROQ.

The show at the Barbary, which also features Line Leader and Puppy Angst, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $6.

Other upcoming shows at the Barbary are Mark Rose and Ryan Dunston on August 24, Imprint on August 25 and The Good Mess on August 27.

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